Constructed Extravaganza

Hey everyone!

Standard is picking up so we have plenty of formats to cover today. I’ve been tinkering in Legacy, Modern, and Standard and I’m intrigued by each one.

Let’s start with Standard!

Ramunap Red

I’m happy to see decks make the top 8 of the SCG Open in Dallas last weekend that weren’t just Temur Energy and Ramunap Red. With that being said, I would register Ramunap Red at an event tomorrow:

Soul-Scar Mage
I’m happy with nearly every card in this deck and this is a great place to start in a young format. Since we lose Village Messenger and Falkenrath Gorger, I went up to four Soul-Scar Mage. I need additional instants to trigger prowess at an opportune time, so Shock gets a lot better. This is helpful because I need additional 1-drops for Hazoret anyway.

There isn’t much else to say about Ramunap Red’s maindeck as it is already pretty well-defined. The difference between winning and losing will rest with sideboard preparation and getting the critical turns in the mirror correct, as mistakes in each of those categories can be costly.

After SCG Dallas I see an early Standard equilibrium consisting of:

Ramunap Red > {W}{U} Approach > Sultai Energy > Ramunap Red

If these are the top three decks, I would like to be on the side with the best possible worst matchup. I’m not deathly afraid of the Sultai Energy matchup with Ramunap Red. I would be afraid of the Approach matchup with Sultai Energy because the sweeper effects are strong against Winding Constrictor strategies. Despite there being four Energy decks in the top 8 I’m not concerned we will have a one-deck format. Many of the best players picked up Energy as a default to begin and Approach will pick up steam in response.

Remember that Soul-Scar Mage adds an additional -1/-1 counter to a creature for each Winding Constrictor on the battlefield. This means you can Shock down a Constrictor on turn two if the mage is in play. I’m also hopeful for the Energy versus Ramunap Red matchup going forward as there are less Whirler Virtuoso and Bristling Hydras in the field. Sultai doesn’t punish you as hard for going big with Sweltering Suns, Glorybringer, and Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Since many players in the SCG Dallas field were on Temur Energy, Ramunap Red had a poor showing with only a single player making the Top 8. One Tad Macaraeg was in the Top 8 with Ramunap Red and made it all the way to the finals.

Aethersphere Harvester
The only non-reprint card from Ixalan is in the sideboard: Rampaging Ferocidon. I don’t love this card, but the life gain ability is helpful against {W}{U} Approach. Their Game 1 is bad and they hope to win the match by winning the post-board games with Regal Caracal and Authority of the Consuls.

Aethersphere Harvester is still strong against Ramunap Red, but I can’t dedicate so many slots in my sideboard to 3-drops. Pia Nalaar is still great in the transformational sideboard, so she gets the nod. It could be the case that I don’t need Rampaging Ferocidon to fight {W}{U} Approach, but I’ve seen Authority do some messed up things. Also, I’m waiting for the look on their face when casting a 7-drop that does nothing.

I still like Sweltering Suns in the mirror as well as Energy strategies. I’ve seen many Ramunap Red mirrors devolve into the active player being able to deal a couple points shy of lethal and the opponent in the same situation. It’s a scary situation and I would like some more control of my destiny by attacking and then wiping the board. Sweltering Suns will add -1/-1 counters to opposing creatures with a Soul-Scar Mage which can be valuable against opposing Hazorets. Your large creatures are safe as the -1/-1 replacement effect doesn’t negatively impact you.

The first week of Standard looks promising. I’m not surprised to see Andrew Jessup win the Open because he’s one of the best players in the room. Ramunap Red gave Sultai Energy a run for its money, which is impressive given that his opponent had significantly less experience playing in high stakes matches.


Jeskai Flash

I’m trying a new version of Jeskai Flash that takes advantage of Opt. The last couple Modern tournaments featured my matches being heavily influenced by the die roll. Geist of Saint Traft out of Jeskai Flash or the Devoted Druid combo would vary wildly in power based on who goes first. I’ve practiced a lot for Modern lately, so I would like to have as much influence over my matches as possible.

This isn’t a simple thing to do in Modern because there’s a tension between setting up turn three kills and interacting with your opponent.

Here’s my take at an all flash deck:

No longer do I need to cast spells on my own turn! These Jeskai decks have always been described as playing a flash game except a spell here and there at sorcery-speed. Serum Visions and Geist of Saint Traft were the perpetrators, but having a passable instant-speed draw effect allows for some changes.

As the number of instants in my deck increases, so does their power. There has been a tension between Serum Visions and Spell Snare because tapping out of Blue on the first turn can be costly for guessing wrong and letting a 2-drop resolve. It also played poorly with Serum Visions because I never knew if scrying Spell Snare to the top was worth it. Maybe the opponent never casts a 2-drop for the rest of the game and I draw this useless effect. Now the only sorcery-speed effect I cast is Opt when I’m looking for a land (it’s better at finding lands than Serum Visions).

Geist of Saint Traft has been powerful in certain spots, but it’s weak on the draw. I have played countless games on the draw where I stare at a bunch of 3-drops and tapping out for Geist could lose me the game on the spot. I made the swap over to Vendilion Clique to ensure I can interact at every point in the game. There’s a strong chance it dies, but I can force the opponent to filter an additional removal spell that would have been pointed at Spell Queller.

Since I cut Geist of Saint Traft for Vendilion Clique, the absolute power of my deck decreased in exchange for flexibility. Restoration Angel combos with Vendilion Clique to get the effect two turns in a row. I have played as many as three angels in Jeskai Flash, but there aren’t as many spots to get full value as I want to cast Spell Queller on turn three.

Logic Knot
The fourth Logic Knot was added over the first Remand because my deck is so reactive. I want more hard 1-for-1 answers in this version because I don’t have the fast Geist draws anymore. To adjust for casting four Logic Knots, I added a ninth fetch over Sacred Foundry. Now I only have a Plains and Mountain that doesn’t satisfy the {U}{U} requirement on the card. Logic Knot gets better in a deck like this because I almost always pass the turn with all of my mana available.

I’ve played a couple Modern events with Opt legal and I’ve seen many players make the mistake of adding it to their deck. Opt is a weaker effect than Sleight of Hand; you’re paying for the flexibility. What’s the point of playing it in Grixis Shadow if the card you draw is Thoughtseize or a creature? A deck like Grixis Shadow plays at sorcery-speed enough times that it should be cast on your turn in many cases. There are going to be decks that want four Serum Visions as well as a couple copies of Opt. Be careful the deck doesn’t end up with too many cards that just find more cards; spinning your wheels isn’t fun.

Combo decks also care less about flexibility than this Jeskai Flash deck. Why should I wait until the end of turn to dig for my combo piece? I already knew that card was critical to my game plan.

This isn’t to say Opt is unplayable outside of Jeskai Flash because some decks just want more cantrip effects. Maybe Ad Nauseum wants Opt because they already play Serum Visions and Sleight of Hand, but also play weird filtering in the form of Peer Through Depths or Spoils of the Vault. It could be the case that it’s worth a swap to have additional ways to find Lotus Bloom on turn one. Remember we could have played Peek in Modern this entire time.

I look forward to jamming this deck because a lot of guesswork is removed from Jeskai with 100% instants and creatures with flash. Vendilion Clique is one of my favorite creatures so it will be good to catch up. It also feels good to not have to think about what to do on your turn because all you do is play a land and pass the turn.


W/U Back to Basics

I’m interested in trying this deck in Legacy because I love me a Stoneforge Mystic, but am afraid of Kolaghan’s Command.

True-Name Nemesis
Back to Basics could be a game-changer for the Leovold, Emissary of Trest Control matchup. If I waste my time searching for Batterskull and then it dies to half of a Kolaghan’s Command there’s no coming back. Since their mana base is full of non-basics, the matchup can be competitive. True-Name Nemesis can also be a tricky threat to beat as Leovold Control only plays a few ways to kill it in the maindeck: Liliana of the Veil, Diabolic Edict, and Toxic Deluge.

This deck is very strong against Blood Moon decks because Stoneforge Mystic can mitigate the pain of Chalice of the Void on 1 so it can be a strong metagame call. There’s also high power level which can shine in the fair matchups like Maverick and Death and Taxes.

I stand by playing Sword of Feast and Famine over Umezawa’s Jitte in the maindeck. If you play against a combo deck what do you search for with Stoneforge Mystic? Batterskull is the likely option, but it just means Stoneforge is an expensive and slow Tarmogoyf. I prefer Sword of Feast and Famine as an option so I can apply pressure to their life total and hand while leaving up counters. Protection from Black comes up against Dark Depths, too. If I equip to Vendilion Clique I can block the indestructible 20/20.

Four-Color Leovold

Speaking of Leovold, here’s my update:

Lightning Bolt
The big change I’m making is cutting all Fatal Push in the maindeck for Lightning Bolt. I realized, after playing this deck so often, I rarely kill Tarmogoyf because Baleful Strix has scared them away. Push would get immediately boarded out for something more useful in nearly every matchup. At least Lightning Bolt goes to the face when the opponent doesn’t have any creature and can be flashed back with Snapcaster Mage. I’m taking the Jeskai approach and applying it to Legacy.

My greatest concern for playing a lot of Lightning Bolts is they can’t be cast off Underground Sea. To compensate, I have a second Badlands which also helps cast Hymn to Tourach. Now, I like to begin with an Underground Sea and Badlands and the third land is Tropical Island to cast Leovold.

I’m also sick and tired of losing to Blood Moon. For this reason I’m changing the types of blasts I play in the sideboard to two Pyroblast and two Hydroblast. Some of the combo decks have Red spells and most of them bring in Pyroblast which makes Hydroblast better in post-board games. They’re also Blue which means they can be pitched to Force of Will.

Legacy can be relevant for team Constructed events. Even if I don’t end up piloting the Legacy deck I at least want to be aware of what’s happening in the format to help teammates.

That was a lot to cover, but we made it. Constructed is great; I never run out of things to think about. That’s all for me this week. My next event is SCG Cincinnati so Modern will be my primary focus. Hopefully that town continues to be good to me.

Thanks for reading!


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